MIND2MARKETPLACE (M2M), the Murfreesboro-based entrepreneurial education group, seeks to become a nonprofit focused on complementing the region's business accelerators by offering Tech-sector news content and related conferences.
It will remain closely aligned with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service (IPS) and other regional actors, according to Chairman Tim Choate.
M2M's aim is to help connect and convene entrepreneurs, innovators, educators and others to advance the local economy. It does not currently plan to engage in direct support of tech transfer and commercialization, rather it seeks to provides communications to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Choate told VNC that M2M began in January to become formally operational, after nearly eight years of loose coalition-style operation in concert with MTSU, UT IPS and other supporters. It has asked the IRS for 501c(3) nonprofit status, based on an educational mission.
It receives pro bono legal services from attorney Bricke Murfree (Murfree & Murphree); it banks with MidSouth Bank; and, it receives bookkeeping assistance from Dempsey Vantrease & Follis, said Choate.
It is likely to fund its operations through program/service sponsorships and paid attendance for its events, and may later seek grants, he said. It has no plans to charge membership dues. Currently, 425 receive its regular e-mailings.
Its recent meeting on the topic of 3D printing and additive manufacturing drew a healthy two-dozen attendees, said Choate. It seeks to strengthen steadily the attractiveness of its meetings and services, he noted.
The Southern Middle Tennessee Entrepreneur Centers (SMTEC), centered at Tullahoma, is perhaps typical of nonprofit accelerator groups for which M2M might provide complementary services, Choate acknowledged when asked, adding that no such relationship is now in-place.
Choate, soon 49, is the Murfreesboro-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) and e-commerce entrepreneur who owns Murfreesboro-based Bondware, a 13-year-old company that offers content-management solutions for publishers and online community managers.
Bondware has provided M2M's web platform pro bono for several years and could in future assume a contractor role, Choate said.
He cited as precedent the relationship in-place since 1995 between Akins Crisp Public Strategies, which says on its website that it has been "the key leader in organizing, establishing and branding the Tennessee Valley Corridor as one of America's top high-tech regions."
The group now known as M2M began to gell in the months following a 2005 speech by then-U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (6-D-Murfreesboro), who challenged the region's leaders to help drive knowledge produced by local universities and others toward commercialization. Gordon would later become chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology.
Spurred by Gordon, the M2M effort also gained the support of then-U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp (3-R-Chattanooga), who had long been an advocate for TVC and eventually led the broadening of the TVC footprint to include the 6th Congressional District, which includes Murfreesboro.
At the time of its original impetus, M2M was led by now-Chair Emeritus Andrea Loughry, a Murfreesboro business woman and former MTSU faculty member. She is Immediate Past Chair of the UT Foundation and a former member of the University of Tennessee board of trust. The M2M board is listed here, and its next scheduled meeting is in June.
Sandy Ponder, M2M's sole former executive director, moved to the Rutherford County Chamber as VP for workforce development, a year ago. M2M has no immediate plans to add fulltime staff, said Choate.
Choate has experience building communities online. Bondware's Renderosity is a 15-year-old community for digital designers, which has operated continually since 1998. Its newsletter goes to more than 100,000 persons, according to its website, though its free registration is held by several times that number.
Choate confirmed that in January he stepped-down as chairman and co-owner of Murfreesboro Post. At roughly that same point, he stepped-up his efforts to advance M2M. VNC